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Parks Officials Designate New Areas at Waveny for Drone Operators ... - New Canaanite

Drone pilots finally have a viable and designated place to fly this summer.

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This area near the (non-orchard) softball fields and Lapham Community Center at Waveny will be designated for quad-copter and drone use in the summer. Credit: Michael Dinan

Parks officials on Wednesday created a plan for drone users and their devices to operate at Waveny.

Under a proposal that the New Canaan Parks & Recreation Commission approved 8-0 during its regular meeting, beginning June 26 and through Aug. 15, drone-using members of the New Canaan Radio Control Society will be able to fly the devices in an area west of the water towers, near the softball fields behind Lapham Community Center, while model plane and “quad-copter” racing owners fly on the same field but nearer to the main road through Waveny.

Flying will take place 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends and 12 to 4 p.m. three days per week, commission Chair Sally Campbell said.

“One of the side benefits of that is the part of the park where the Waveny House is will strictly be for passive activity.” Campbell said at the meeting, held in Lapham Community Center.

She also added, “It is a good location, it is visible for the town to see if you are trying to monitor.”

Commissioners present at the meeting were Campbell, Kit Devereaux, Hank Green, Gene Goodman, Andrew Gordon, Matthew Konspore, Jason Milligan, Katie Owsley, Francesca Segalas and Douglas Richardson. Laura Costigan was absent.

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The grass parking area at Kiwanis Park. Credit: Michael Dinan

Under the recommended rules, there will be a period when the pilots will have no space to fly, due to the town’s work on playing fields, officials said. When fall sports teams move their practices to Waveny after Aug. 15, the drones will temporarily operate and on weekends in a disused area of Kiwanis Park—the grass-covered portion of a parking lot, near a wooded hill.

Green asked whether the area would affect the nursery school at Kiwanis. Benko said the nursery school isn’t in session on Saturdays and Sundays.

Campbell underscored that the solution is for one single season only, until a longer-term one can be figured out.

Previously, parks officials had considered requiring drone operators to fly at the East School fields this summer.

The decision to place the drone users on the men’s rec softball fields at Waveny was appropriate because there are no future baseball games scheduled for the upcoming weeks, according to Recreation Director Steve Benko. If there are soccer, softball or baseball games, there will be no drone flying, he said.

The quad copters flying at the fields are only 15 to 20 feet off the ground.

“It is more like drone racing versus flying an aerial drone,” Benko said in the meeting, “They are not flying up filming your backyard.”

In the future, it may be possible to designate some time for aerial drone training to take place near the Summer Theatre of New Canaan’s area at Waveny, Benko said.

According to Campbell: “The NCRCS has been very agreeable and observant of the rules the Parks and Rec Commission established at the park.”

There were also talks to create a “drone camp” where the NCRCS members can teach children how to responsibly use their drones and join the society, she said.

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